Markets and Trade, Money

Accessing Your Cash Using ATMs in Mexico

ATMs have transformed the way that visitors and foreign residents exchange foreign currency in Mexico.

Withdrawing Money from an ATM

In years past, foreign currency exchange used to necessarily involve buying foreign cash in your home country or more usually, taking traveler’s checks on your journey for exchange overseas. In either case, money exchange involved spending time and effort lining up at banks or exchange houses to get access to local currency.

The advent of ATMs has completely changed the landscape of foreign currency trades, and both visitors and foreign residents living in Mexico have come to rely upon ATMs as a means for obtaining local currency from their foreign-based bank accounts.

ATMs are not new, and they have been in widespread use in Mexico for over two decades.  However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that international visitors and travelers began to use them in earnest.

ATMs offer several advantages over traveler’s checks:

  • there is no need spend time pre-purchasing traveler’s checks and spend more time again cashing them in Mexico;
  • ATMs are open extended hours;
  • they typically dispense up to US$500 worth of Mexican pesos in local currency directly from your savings or checking account back home (exact amount depending on the bank’s policy);
  • ‘pre-paid’ ATM cards are available, which you charge up with credit for access to those funds overseas—these are effectly a type of ‘electronic traveler’s check’.

Fees for use of bank cards in overseas ATMs have gradually increased over the last decade, through the exchange rate ‘spread’ (the difference between the buy and sell rate of foreign currency) remains competitive and in-line with live international foreign exchange rate market prices. Exact charges differ by bank and account type: check with your bank to find out what they charge for when you use your card abroad.  Note also that Mexican banks charge a small (separate) fee for each withdrawal.

It’s worth pointing out that cash withdrawn at Mexican ATMs using foreign credit card accounts, as distinct from ‘debit’ cards linked to accounts with your own checking or savings funds, is one of the most expensive ways to borrow money.

Some people still like to carry traveler’s checks for ‘back-up’ or emergency funds, although note that not all banks sell them now and they are more difficult to exchange into cash here in Mexico than they were in years past.

Taking some cash (US and CA dollars, British Pounds, Euros, and Yen are immediately trade-able at Mexico City’s international airport) and exchanging it in Mexico can be one of the best ways to trade your foreign currency. Foreign currency in cash is readily accepted at exchange houses across Mexico and offers you good rates in exchange for your foreign notes into Mexican pesos; albeit it carries the highest risk of unforeseen loss.

See Also: Guide to Money in Mexico

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  1. Ron says

    Being a Canadian, and travelling to PV, Mexico City, Puebla, San Miguel, Queretero, Oaxaca, Vera Cruz, etc., use my Scotiabank debit card at Scotia Banks, no problems, my max withdrawal daily in Canada is $1000, there I only can get slightly under 5000p daily, but other major banks, larger amount, but assume commissions paid. With Scotia no charges, if using your home chequing account. The smaller locations don’t have Scotia banks, but maybe a small Mexican bank.

  2. Mary says

    Yesterday I withdrew 500 MXP just to see if my CapitalOne card would work. I was charged 183.5 MXP in bank fees. the exchange rate of 1 USD to 17.38 MXP seemed correct but the fees seemed high. It cost 39 USD to get about 28 USD. Is that right?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Mary,

      Mexican ATMs usually charge about MXN$33 (US$1.80) for each withdrawal using a card from a foreign bank. You paid about US$11 in fees, so your own bank charged you around US$9 for the withdrawal, which is probably composed of a fixed fee plus the exchange rate charges.

      Some banks charge a minimum fee regardless of how much you take out, and if that’s the case, it’s better to withdraw a large sum once than smaller amounts on separate occasions.

      We suggest you contact your bank to ask about their schedule of fees for card use overseas.

  3. Mike says

    Santander and Bank of America ended their relationship on August 2016. It is now Scotiabank and Bank of America that work together to avoid ATM fees in Mexico.

    • Victoria says

      This is true, B of A just informed me of this. You won’t be charged an ATM fee if you use Scotiabank however B of A will charge you a 3.5% international transaction fee on every withdraw from your debit card (and purchases) and this adds up quickly.

    • ALEX bereson says

      Mike we are in the beginning of July 2016 so I dont understand your post. I called BofA today and they said Santander was still their one and only partner in Mexico!

  4. Ron says

    Nancy, I thought Ralf’s example explained perfectly why TC’s can be invaluable regardless of what age we are in…

  5. Annie says

    The only banks that I have found that don’t charge a foreign transaction fee is Capital One 360 and Charles Schwab. I have both, however, Visa and MC both add a “hidden” surcharge to every transaction. I have taken money out within minutes from both accounts. Capital One 360 give a better rate (MC) compared to the CS (V) of about 5%. Finding an All Point ATM that works has been a challenge in Mexico. However Bank of Inbursa only charge 17.40 pesos per transaction and you can withdraw up to 5k pesos at a time.

  6. Ken Holmes says

    My wife and I are permanent residents in Mexico and use ATM’s extensively. We have some of our retirement funds (Social Security) direct deposited in our Santander Bank account here in Mexico. Have been doing this for several years with no problems. We use the ATM for our withdrawals and have never had a problem. Also no problem with the direct deposits. If we need more cash than the ATM’s will permit, we just go inside and get it from a teller. No fees are ever charged!. Ken

  7. John says

    I just returned to the U.S. from Cancun. I had to withdraw funds at an ATM at a resort near end of trip. The fee on my account was $45 plus the typical $2 and $1 you usually see. I don’t recall seeing anything on the screen that would yield that charge. My bank said all I can do is call the Mexico bank. I doubt I would have any luck getting help. Anyone out there have this happen to them?

  8. Wayne says

    They started charging a 3% “international transaction fee” about a year ago. You can get it waived, but it is a pain in the butt. I called customer service and asked. BUT, the first guy said it could not be done. So, I hung up and called back. It took about a week and 4 phone calls but I finally got someone to waive the fees for me..
    Most of the people who answer the phone will say they cannot waive the fees. Just be polite and hang up. Call back. Every time you call back you get a different person. Eventually someone will help.

  9. Tim says

    I just returned from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have an account with Bank of America and, because of their arrangement with Santander in Mexico, I thought I would be able to draw cash from an ATM without a fee. Not true. Although the ATM shows no fee on the screen, the statement from BofA shows a fee for conversion of dollars to pesos at the ATM….any tricks to this?

    • Tim,
      There are a number of credit cards that charge no fees when used outside the US. However, that info would be in the small print on your credit card agreement. Google “no currency conversion fee credit cards. Apply in advance of your next foreign excursion.

  10. B.Buckman says

    Although the article states that foreign currency can be readily exchanged for pesos in banks throughout Mexico that is not the case where I live. In Jalisco near the border of Guanajuato banks will not exchange dollars for pesos and have not been doing so for, at least, four or five years. A Mexican friend did tell me, however, they will change money for those who have an account with the local bank.

  11. Ralf says

    Well, unfortunately this electronic age is not perfect at all. February this year I went up Baja California from La Paz and got stuck in Guerrero Negro. The ATM refused to accept my visa card for no obvious reasons. I phoned my bank back home, but everything was allright with the card. The mexican bank refused to give me cash at the counter. Eventually a bank-clerk tried to assist me in drawing money from the ATM. With no result. As far as I could see it was the only bank in town. There was another ATM near a gas station but it was out of order. A nearby hotel checked my visa card by drawing one Peso, which worked perfectly. It would have been easy to give me pesos which I would have payed by that visa card, even for the worst rate thinkable. For some reason the hotel manager refused to do it. May he mistrusted me as he didn`t see the point why the ATM did not accept the card. I didn`t see it either. I still had some cash euros which nobody wanted to change. They only accepted dollars. And let me tell you – I wished I would have had some traveler`s checks with me as I always had in the past. After all they are safer than cash money when the worst case happens. Next time I`ll carry a second credit card and a few hidden TC with me, that`s for sure.

    Fortunately I still had just enough pesos to take the night bus back to Loreto where my visa card worked as perfectly as ever. And I had got a glimpse of how it would be to get stranded at some rotten place in the desert.

  12. Nancy says

    Why would anybody use traveler’s checks in this electronic age? Cashing them in Mexico involves going to a bank, waiting in [a long] line, showing your passport, and possibly being handed off to a customer service person because the teller has no idea what to do–all in all, a much more involved process than going to an ATM. Not to mention that you pay a fee for the traveler’s checks (which are in US dollars)–there’s no advantage to using them at all.

  13. Wayne says

    I have my bank accounts with Bank Of America. They have an agreement with Santander in Mexico. I use their ATMs to withdraw cash. I pay no fees and get that days exchange rate. I almost always get extra fees when I pay for goods and services with my card. Usually not much, between 5 to 20 cents in most cases.
    Since I pay no fees at the ATM, I always get pesos from there and pay cash for everything…

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